What does the GNU General Public License mean, and what exactly is the GNU Project? On these pages you can find selected original documents together with a translation into German—as accurate as possible.

The GNU Project is a project for the development of a complete operating system as free software. It was started on 5 January 1984 by Richard M. Stallman. In those days he wrote the GNU Manifesto which explains and substantiates the goals of the GNU Project and invites for contributing.

In order to make sure that the software of the GNU Project—from the operating system's innermost kernel up to application software— remains free software, the Copyleft principle was developed. The software license agreement, based on copyright law, allows for using and distributing the software under the condition that the free status of the software is preserved. The most well-known software license which implements this principle is the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL).

A weaker version of the GNU GPL is the GNU Lesser General Public License (GNU LGPL). It is applied in situations where the use of the GNU GPL would impede the spread of the software.

Older versions of the GNU GPL and the GNU LGPL are still being widely used, so we keep them on this site together with their translations.

The well-known term “Open Source software” is often used as a synonym for “free software”. However there are subtle differences. We provide a comparison of both terms by Richard Stallman.

The German translations of these documents are distributed in the hope that they will facilitate understanding, but they are no official or legally approved translations.